Do you ever wake up craving pancakes? I often do. I usually wake up hoping someone else will make them for me. 🙂
A few days ago, I decided to give in and try a pancake recipe I’ve been wanting to make for a while. It’s the first recipe in “BabyCakes Covers the Classics,” the second cookbook from gluten-free and vegan bakery BabyCakes NYC. (The bakery’s website says “refined sugar-free, gluten-free, wheat-free, soy-free, casein-free, egg-free, vegan, kosher,” and overall the recipes in its two books seem to stick to that with a few exceptions.)
I bought “BabyCakes Covers the Classics” earlier this year during a browsing trip at Barnes & Noble (always a risky move for the bank account!). I was immediately drawn to the pretty pink doughnut on the cover of the book, which B&N had prominently displayed on the new releases stand. I was familiar with the BabyCakes name, as I’d flipped through its first cookbook in the past. I’d resisted the urge to buy the first book because it was mostly desserts, muffins, sweet breads and the like, which I usually try to avoid. I find it easier to avoid rich desserts and baked goods all together — that way I don’t come to expect them.
But “Covers the Classics” was different. It started with “breakfast stuff” — pancakes and waffles, then savory crepes and a vegetable tart — and I was immediately hooked. (Ever since starting my allergy diet, I have struggled to find options for satisfying breakfasts.) Then came cookies — a Mrs. Fields cookie cake! — and snack bar items — Whoopie Pies, are you kidding me?!?! — followed by “old country” favorites, cakes and doughnuts. And I could eat everything in these recipes — they were even yeast-free!
It seemed too good to be true, and perhaps it is. Recently, I was browsing Amazon.com and read some reviews for “Covers the Classics.” Many of them were not so kind. They complained about things like the texture or taste of the finished product; many of the reviewers claimed to be experienced bakers and felt cheated by these recipes that, to them, were intentionally fraudulent. Some of them complained about the taste of Bob’s Red Mill All-Purpose Gluten-Free Baking Flour, which has bean flour in it.
I’m used to taking reviews with a grain of salt — Do you ever notice how reviewers are usually either passionately for something or passionately against it? — but I started to notice a recurring theme with a number of the negative reviews. Many of them complained about the cost of the ingredients, which isn’t unexpected with such specialized baking, but they specifically were annoyed with how much vanilla extract the recipes use. I’m not a regular baker, so I didn’t notice the large quantities of vanilla right away, but I do know that vanilla extract is pricey and just a little goes a long way.
I was a little more skeptical about the recipes, but I still really, really wanted pancakes. I thought they would be a safe place to start because they’re rated a 1 out of 4 on the book’s piece-of-cake scale. So I made them, following the recipe almost exactly.
The recipe calls for rice milk, which I didn’t have, so I subbed almond milk. Author and BC owner Erin McKenna notes that she’s never experimented with nut milks, which I found strange, since I think almond milk has the best milk-like consistency and would likely be better in baking than super thin rice milk. And I think that substitute made for a thicker pancake. McKenna notes “I like my pancakes extremely thin,” yet my pancakes were very dense, which was fine with me. 🙂
Another thing I noticed: These pancakes burned super easily. Admittedly, my pancake-flipping skills leave something to be desired, but every single pancake went from batter to burnt before I had a chance to flip them. And I have to guess that had something to do with the sugar content in them. In addition to the 1/3 cup agave nectar, the recipe also calls for applesauce that, while “unsweetened,” is going to add sugar to the recipe. The pancakes turned out noticeably sweeter than any pancakes I’ve ever made before. I like my pancakes to be fairly neutral on the savory-to-sweet spectrum, with a nice cinnamon/nutmeg kind of spiciness. The next time I try these, I’m going to try cutting down on the sugar.
Finally, yes, there is way to much vanilla extract in this recipe. It calls for 2 Tablespoons, and I could taste the vanilla in the initial flavor and in the aftertaste. I’m thinking 2 teaspoons would do, or maybe a Tablespoon at most. Some of the Amazon reviewers guessed that the large amounts of vanilla were used to disguise the (in some people’s opinions) unpleasant taste of the bean flours in the Bob’s Red Mill mix. And I think I could detect that bean flavor they were referring to, but I don’t think the overpowering vanilla on top helps.
Overall, I would try these pancakes again with less sugar and less vanilla. (McKenna recommends following the recipes exactly, but I suspect pancakes would be the easiest things with which to experiment.) The best thing about these pancakes was how well they worked as leftovers — they firmed up to a nice whole-wheat type of consistency after sitting in the fridge for a little bit and even microwaved well after two days.
I’ll continue to try recipes from “Covers the Classics,” but I can’t rate the book just yet. If you’re unsure, do as one Amazon reviewer suggested and borrow the book from the library. 🙂